Home and Away: How does the UK compare to life abroad?

A comparison of living in the UK to living abroad in Northern Spain.

Amelie Baker
7th March 2024
Image by Antonio López from Pixabay
The UK has always been a place I wanted to leave, but now that I do live abroad, is it a place I want to go back to?

For six months now, I’ve been living in the north of Spain, and, fair to say, it has been a very different experience from living in the UK.

A noticeable difference between here and the UK is the cost of living. The rise in food costs, energy bills and everything else for that matter has made life at home unlivable for some and near impossible for others - especially us students. Spain, by comparison, is undeniably cheaper on all fronts. It's nice to be able to use heating as and when I want it, and not have to treat it as a luxury. Rent is also a lot cheaper here, depending on which region/city you are in. It's almost as if basic necessities are actually affordable! Something that is unfortunately becoming increasingly scarce and non-existent in the UK. And, because the basics don’t break the bank here, I can afford to travel on the weekend, and have as many sweet treats as my heart desires. To top things off, coffee doesn’t cost an arm and a leg in Spain either, so it's safe to say that, from an economic standpoint, the difference between Spain and our broken Britain is fairly large.

Another differentiating factor is of course the people and the culture. Apart from the laid back lifestyle of siestas and very late dinners Spain is also a lot friendlier and has a strong sense of community, be it in everyday conversations in the street or chatting with strangers in cafes and bars, which is not as commonplace in the UK. However, as a foreigner in this country, that community has largely been inaccessible, at least from my experience in the north of Spain. 

The feeling of belonging ... is something I took for granted when living in the UK.

When people realise that my friends and I are not native Spanish speakers, the common reaction is often avoidance sometimes followed by a glance of disapproval, whether it be out of laziness or prejudice. Despite being able to communicate fairly well in Spanish, it has taken us all a while to adjust and ‘break-in’ to the local community. The feeling of belonging - of being a native speaker with the right accent and the knowledge of how to interact effortlessly - is something I took for granted when living in the UK. As a white English woman I definitely have that privilege in the UK. In spite of all that Spain has to offer, and in spite of the current issues facing the UK, not to mention the embarrassment that we call a government (Spain wins on this front too), home is home, for better or for worse.

After 6 months I’m surprised, and slightly disappointed, to say that I do miss broken Britain, in all her glory.

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